When I hung up my skates after two unheralded seasons in the minors, I didn’t think that I’d ever lace up them up again. In time, that attitude changed thanks to men’s league hockey — where the washed-up and never-were meet for glory once a week. Now, somehow, I’m on two teams, the Warners’ Stellian Stars in the Metro Gold League and the Arctic Ice in Minnetonka. Here are four of my favorite things about men’s league hockey.
In competitive hockey, it’s key to stay hydrated, both before and after the game. After a hard-fought contest it’s necessary to replenish fluids. Players slam water, Gatorade and a variety of sport-drink concoctions like a car at the pump that’s been running for miles with the low-gas light on.
After a men’s league game, there is a completely different variety of beverage to swig: beer. The post-game suds are the reason men’s league hockey is better known to many as beer leagues. There are few things more satisfying and refreshing than a postgame brew while languidly shedding layers of sweaty equipment.
Consequently, there is nothing worse than getting into the locker room pregame to find no one brought a case. Thankfully, teams have perfected their system over years of training. On the Stars, there is a cooler that gets passed around from week to week; take home the cooler, you’re responsible for getting the beer. If you’re going to be out sick or have to take your kid to ballet class, better notify the team beforehand. For the Arctic Ice, the team captain passes along an email chain to ensure someone will bring the postgame party.
The fitness level in men’s league hockey is a lot like the range of vehicles you’d find at a used car lot: there are some young models with a lot of tread left on the tires, while there are older models that you hope just make it through the winter. Regardless of the age of the automobile, or hockey player, it’s important that you run the motor every once in a while.
Unless you’re playing on multiple teams, you’re not going to get into game shape playing men’s league. But at least your heart rate will get above 100 every so often. For the most part, men’s leaguers take it easy and don’t sprint around the ice like The Road Runner after chugging energy drinks, but skating is a great anaerobic exercise and a way to burn a few calories between weekend lagers.
Of course, there are always a handful of youngsters who are still in pretty good shape and backcheck like it’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Just know if you’re that guy, everyone else hates your guts—possibly even your own teammates. Which leads us to the next reason to like men’s league...
It doesn’t matter what level
you compete at, peewee or pro, winning is fun. Just because a player starts lugging around a beer belly like a kangaroo carrying a joey, the attitude towards winning doesn’t change. Sports is about the only place where you can get mad enough to swear at your contemporaries and no one bats an eye (of course if you’re that hot head, you’re as hated as the young backchecking try-hard).
Although most adult leagues are “recreational” and meant to be “fun,” anytime you place a scoreboard above the ice, players are going to want to score more than the other team. Add a playoff format and some kind of prize for winning, and the competitive nature of sports will take over. Really at any age, what fun would hockey be if there wasn’t an element of competition?
Thankfully, there are multiple leagues to choose from in the State of Hockey, so it’s easy to find a league that matches your compete and skill level. Again, winning is fun, but it’s not the only thing...
Where else are you going to find a group of friends as diverse as a men’s league roster? We have teachers, financial planners, laborers, lawyers and salesmen on a team. When I was hit with a high stick, I was stitched up by a teammate, an emergency room doctor. My insurance agent is my center. In a men’s league locker room, you’ll find people from all walks of life — bonded by their love of hockey.
Speak to a retired player and the thing they often say they miss most is the camaraderie between teammates. For guys still strapping on the pads in men’s league, it’s the one night a week when they can relive past glories and then share a laugh in the locker room afterwards with friends in the same boat.
Heck, if you find the right team, you could win the league, go out with your teammates and drink out of the championship trophy, all while your heart rate is still pounding from the game. For a moment, you might forget it’s Wednesday night and you have to clock-in to your day job the next morning.